Why Australia's Metadata Retention Scheme Is Still Stupid

We've long said that the Government's proposed metadata retention scheme is a stupid idea conceived by stupid people for stupid people. Now some of those stupid people inside the Western Australian Police are proving us exactly right: 112 police officers have been caught accessing the arrest record of sports star Ben Cousins out of "professional curiosity", and the WA Police Commissioner has no problem with that.

If you're not standing on your desk screaming right now, you should be.

After troubled AFL star Ben Cousins was arrested in Perth for failure to stop and failure to comply with a breath test, that data was filed into the WA Police computer systems.

A 29-year old policeman thought it might be a good idea to share the private information from the computerised arrest record with his girlfriend, who was a reporter for the Seven Network. He's since been fired, but it's what the Acting WA Police Commissioner, Steve Brown, said on radio about the incident that will really get your back up.

He said that the Cousins' arrest record, and the arrest records of another AFL player, Daniel Kerr, were accessed over 300 times by around 112 different officers, most of whom had nothing to do with the case.

Here are his comments from 6PR Radio, first reported by WA Today:

"About half [of the officers accessing the records] are going to clearly be what has been described as professional curiosity and we agree with that. Those officers have absolutely nothing to fear.
The remaining half we are still working through to try and identify why they would have accessed that record. From where the investigation is currently at, those officers weren't working at the time or weren't working in close proximity. They had no need – 10 of them or thereabouts were working in regional Western Australia."

Professional curiosity?! Those officers have nothing to fear?! Jesus wept.

If police officers can't be expected not to take a peek at their own records out of "professional curiosity", what's to stop these same idiots trampling the privacy fence of metadata retention and looking up information on celebrities, sporting stars, ex-partners and others?

Nothing. There's nothing there to stop them. But don't worry, when police officers snoop on your info out of "curiosity" for where you were, who you were talking to or where you're going, they won't have to answer to a soul.

Metadata retention is stupid, and we're stupid for letting it happen.

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